Rhetoric is easy and, in some cases, quite lucrative.
Consider the digital-marketing pundits who have made a fine living transforming an uncomplicated notion into a complex topic. Or, imagine a newly appointed CMO who rants and raves about making digital marketing a strategic competency without putting the requisite muscle behind it. Digital marketing’s significant and straightforward value should compel CMOs and others to avoid this rhetoric trap. An effective, profitable approach to digital marketing requires a clear definition; a detailed road map; the right people, processes, and technology; and tangible action.
Digital marketing represents both a key driver and key outcome of the Mitel marketing function’s transformation, so that’s the approach I’ve taken. Digital marketing and its role in our transformation needs to be relevant to our customers, so I deal with it in straightforward, action-oriented terms rather than with bombastic language. At Mitel, we define digital marketing simply as “using digital technologies to achieve business objectives.” In due course it should—and will—be mainstream enough to simply be called marketing.
Digital packs a punch
Our shift to being digital centric is primarily driven by our most important constituency: our customers. They tell us that the most influential aspects of the early stage of their decision-making processes are:
1. Search at the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), when they begin their educational journey
2. The manufacturer’s website (hence, the need to have great online search)
3. Content; our customers come to our website and seek us out to become smarter
The other reason for the shift is that digital and the Internet allows challenger brands like Mitel to punch above our weight against larger competitors with significantly more marketing resources. The Internet is a great leveler, and we are committed to exploiting digital marketing as a way to promote our brand and capabilities to our target market.
Today digital marketing is one of our strategic pillars and helps us engage with our customers to help them find, learn, buy, and use our products and services.
Underpinning our investment in digital marketing is a series of sub-initiatives starting and ending with voice of the customer (VoC). We’re making a significant investment in designing a new website from the ground up. As noted before, this redesign is based entirely on VoC. Having a good digital experience is one thing, but we need to make sure we get more people to experience our website. We’ll do so by providing timely and relevant content along our customer’s decision-making journey.
At the front end of the buyer’s journey we’ve established a moderated-community website called Collaborative Planet with our partner UBM. In addition, we’ve developed educational pieces such as whitepapers and infographics. The further along the journey a prospect goes we provide richer technical content and also research and consideration tools, such as a Total Cost of Ownership tool. We populate all content with the key words and phrases that our customers use to appear at the ZMOT, to ensure that it’s consumed.
We also intend to become more visible in the very first steps that customers and prospects take when researching their options in our space. To that end, we’re investing heavily in search marketing, including organic and paid search, as well as social media. Our plan for social is to integrate social channels, such as YouTube and Twitter, into our search program, but it’s also to be present in industry forums, such as Spiceworks.
These initiatives can only be implemented and executed with great digital talent and a commitment to investments. Attracting and developing great digital marketing talent ranks as one of our highest priorities this fiscal year.
Our recent track record demonstrates our commitment to these types of priorities. For example, when I joined Mitel last year we had two full-time digital marketers and one contractor. Today we have eight people on the digital marketing team, and this figure will double again within the next few months.
We also dodged the rhetoric trap when it comes to digital investment, and are committing real dollars. IDC’s 2013 CMO Tech Marketing Barometer Study indicates that high-tech companies invest roughly 30% of their marketing budgets in digital. Early in my Mitel tenure we were investing less than 5% of our budget in digital. Today our plan is to increase funding and reallocate resources so that digital comprises 50% of our total marketing investment within our current fiscal year, which started May 1, 2013. We’ll be using what we call Dynamic Resource Allocations to determine our spending; for example, the culling of most trade shows based on VoC and ROI analysis, and eliminating programs from our action plans if we can’t point to ROI or growth.
Digital marketing university
The most effective digital marketing strategy recognizes that digital marketing is not any one person or team’s role; it needs to be every employee’s job. This company-wide approach begins with a high level of digital literacy within marketing (I expect that from everyone on my team).
There are always varying levels of digital marketing experience and understanding, but I believe that a marketing function needs to attain a base level of expertise, as well as a shared understanding of where we’re going and the skills required to get there.
That’s why we’re putting everyone within our function through a Digital Marketing University. The coursework, which will be presented in an intensive two-day period, is designed to accelerate and facilitate learning. Specific training—at both beginner and advanced levels—will cover the latest Web marketing techniques via case studies and best practices. Topics include: search engine marketing and optimization strategies and best practices; paid and organic search; current digital marketing practices; and social media best practices. Additionally, there will be training on Mitel’s social media strategy and policy.
Tapping homegrown digital talent
So far in my Mitel tenure, I’ve been fortunate to work with some colleagues with extremely high levels of digital marketing expertise. Note that I said “fortunate” as opposed to “lucky.” Thanks to Mitel’s commitment to, and investment in, talent management, I met several skilled marketing people—inside and outside the marketing function—during my initial road trip upon joining the company.
I met one of these people when he was working as a marketing director in one of our business units (this was before we centralized our function’s structure). Our meeting was scheduled to last 30 minutes; it went well over two hours and was followed by another two-hour phone call. It’s rare to stumble across someone who shares your philosophy, vision, and values. I discovered that this marketing director previously ran his own digital agency, where he worked on some of the largest brands and websites.
The more we talked the more I knew I could build a team around this individual. And so we have: James Windrow, Mitel’s director of digital marketing, now heads up our Center for Digital Excellence and has evolved from an individual contributor to managing a team of eight that, as I noted, will double in the coming months.
It’s this sort of tangible change and outcome that raises digital marketing planning above rhetoric and transforms it into lasting value.
An Evolutionary Journey
Genuine marketing transformation requires a journey. And journeys require plans, maps, and a compass. To that end, we put together an extremely candid assessment of our marketing capabilities shortly after I joined Mitel last year. Then we laid out a plan to set us on a path to reach a lofty goal. If we’re being truly honest, that goal, “Marketing Excellence,” probably qualifies as unreachable for most marketing functions. However, I believe the elusive nature of excellence should not stop us from striving to attain it.
To illustrate and convey our evolutionary journey to Marketing Excellence, I fleshed out earlier stops or achievements on the journey, beginning with “Marketing Efficiency” and “Marketing Proficiency” (see chart). I identified specific milestones within each of these phases to help illustrate our function’s areas of focus on different legs of our journey toward excellence.
I refer to these key milestones, as well as this overarching journey, frequently in my communications to my team. Doing so helps us track our progress. This map also tells the story of our journey while highlighting some of the hurdles and wins we’ve encountered along the way.
We’ve already invested time and intelligence to reshape our function to the right size and right structure, with what we believe is the right focus, and we’ve centralized resources. Although we’ve done the bulk of that work, we’ll continue to review and adjust as we move forward in keeping with our commitment to continuous improvement. In the second half of 2012 we took several key actions, including a shift to segment marketing and a much greater focus on digital marketing, that have propelled us forward on our journey to proficiency and relevancy to our customers.